Wellington Scoop

The cash fare rip-off

by Mike Flinn
Wellington’s new bus route structure includes several routes where cash-paying passengers are forced to pay extra (going to the CBD for example) when they have to change buses in the middle of a fare zone.

Examples of these points are Miramar Avenue, John Street (Hutchison Street), the Hospital and Brooklyn Library. The city side of Karori Tunnel is a “Hub” change-over point but the end of the zone for both Karori corridors is at the Karori end of the tunnel (where there are no shelters).

What is happening to cash-fare-payers is that they are now forced to pay an additional zone fare compared to the previous system, while in complete contrast Snapper Card holders have fares reduced by a zone as their trip is now treated as one journey and not two.

Here are two examples.

A passenger from Miramar Terminus in Darlington Road wants to go to the Hospital in Newtown. The passenger will have to change buses twice, at Miramar Avenue and Kilbirnie, and a Snapper Card holder will be charged for a two Zone fare of $2.11 according to the Metlink Journey Advisor. A cash-fare payer will be charged one Zone to Miramar Avenue ($2.50), one Zone to Kilbirnie ($2.50) and one Zone to the Hospital ($2.20) a total of $7.50. (Previously the cash passenger would have paid one Zone to Kilbirnie and one Zone to the Hospital).

The second example is a trip from Houghton Bay to the CBD where a bus change is now required at the Hospital. The fare before 15 July would have been 3 Zones.

The Journey Advisor shows the Snapper Card holder will now pay three Zones ($2.81) for the fare. A cash-fare payer will now pay a 2 Zone fare to the Hospital ($4.00) and a two Zone fare to the CBD ($4.00) a total of $8.00.

These bus changes have been forced on bus passengers so that the GWRC can save money to provide extra evening and weekend services (Draft Transport Plan 2014) yet we now have a fare system which is deliberately charging extra to cash fare payers.

This “rip-off” has to stop quickly by some form of transfer being introduced so that the payment of cash fares by zone is no different than before the 15 July changes.

Cash-fare payers are a small percentage of all passengers (perhaps 5%) and I can understand that GWRC would like to get rid of cash fares and the associated complications.

But this discrimination is not the way to start change.


  1. luke, 14. August 2018, 9:16

    Cash makes the bus a lot slower for eveybody else and presents a security risk to the driver. The bigger the incentive to use snapper the better. Does need to be easier to obtain & top up snapper however.

  2. Trish Enright, 14. August 2018, 9:43

    On the subject of fares. Snapper users are being charged significantly more than train users. A 2 zone snapper user pays $112.40 for 40 trips – 4 weeks to and from work only. A 2 zone monthly train pass is only $84.30 and a 3 zone monthly pass is $112.20, and these are for unlimited trips!
    This is major discrimination that the GWRC is fully aware of, but have had no intention of fixing!

  3. greenwelly, 14. August 2018, 10:19

    @Trish, This will only be fixed when they fully roll out an integrated ticketing solution. It’s called NEXT. It’s scheduled for 2021, but I think it will be later than that.

  4. Michael Gibson, 14. August 2018, 10:26

    Trish – this is a typical example of the way that Wellingtonians get ripped off. It is because their representatives are so weak in the face of a majority of councillors from areas out-of-town where trains are used more than buses. It goes back to my day when there were some good battles on the subject, something which no longer happens in these more acquiescent times. Vote in the next election for somebody who is a bit stronger and better!

  5. Gary.tram, 14. August 2018, 14:29

    From a bus driver’s point of view, we would encourage all cash passengers to change to the Snapper card as soon as possible. Handling cash is a major security risk. Metlink should print brochures for bus drivers to give out to cash passengers.

  6. Ross Clark, 14. August 2018, 22:47

    Where I am, it is simple: for a city whose bus routes and journeys are the length of Wellington’s, there is a single fare for the buses (a policy Germans call, “Eine Stadt, ein Preis”), and the buses don’t give change.

    Not surprisingly, nearly everyone uses something called a Ridacard or the local equivalent of the Supergold card; less sophisticated than Snapper, but it works.


  7. Sekhmet Bast Ra, 15. August 2018, 11:57

    In behavioral economics the technical term for it is ‘nudging’ and the prospect of compulsory electronic transactions across the board should be a concern for all. This recent article published by The Guardian provides some insights on what is to come.

    There are some profound negative implications which go with the larger prospect of an electronic-only system of financial transaction. Failed to pay your rates or taxes on time but have some capital assets? No problem, your bank will issue an auto-loan and pay them for you. You get to pay it back when you can, complete with interest. After all, the banks need to make an honest earn and the government needs those funds; without funds how will they ever be able to implement further constraints on your freedom?

    Fares have doubled for citizens who used the old Go Wellington beneficiaries pass. That’s a fair swipe in the face for some of the most vulnerable members of the community. We published an article back in May 2017 where we predicted beneficiaries would be one of the first groups to be targeted for induction into compulsory electronic transactions and it appears we were right on. The alleged security issue of using cash is one often cited by supporters of electronic transactions, but realistically there is not a whole lot of cash float carried on buses and any robber is going to be caught on the security cameras. One would have to be stupid to try it, especially with some of the big lads who are driving for TranzUrban. We’ve all witnessed passengers get the ‘please pay the driver’ message from the snapper terminal which suggests there will always be a need for the cash payment option.

  8. Mike Mellor, 15. August 2018, 20:16

    Ross Clark: for visitors to Edinburgh, buses not giving change is a right pain, particularly since the cash fare isn’t rounded to the nearest 50p. The cheapest Ridacard is 19 pounds, a lot of money for a short visit, so a pocketful of change is an undesirable must. Not a system I would like to see here, in my opinion (and recent experience).